Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fontana – Here we come!

Fontana Lake in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not an easy place to get to. It’s far from everywhere. So I am so excited that Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes has chosen Fontana Village as the base for their annual overnight trip.

Sign up for the Friends of the Smokies trip on

Monday August 28 – Tuesday August 29 2017.

All the details are in the PDF document but here are some highlights.

Surprise – I won’t start with the hikes. Professor Dan Pierce, chair of the history department at UNC-Asheville has made the Smokies his life work. On Monday evening, he will be speaking about his latest book, Hazel Creek: The  Life and Death of an Iconic Community.  I’ve known Dan since Fall 2001, when I took my first course on Appalachian history, a few months after I moved here. I’ve been a Dan Pierce groupie ever since.

Fontana Lake

Now for the hikes. Monday afternoon, we’ll hike in the Twenty-mile area, even more remote than Fontana Lake.

Tuesday, you have a choice between a long and short hike. So friends and couples coming together can each choose a hike that they would prefer.

Note that I didn’t say hard and easy. Both hikes are very gentle.

Long hike on Hazel Creek Trail to the Hall Cabin. I led a group there in 2014, so you can read all about that experience. We’ll take the boat across Fontana Lake and hike the Hazel Creek Trail and then onto the Hall Cabin. It’s 15.5 miles round trip, with little ascent, but quite an experience.

Cars on Lake Shore Trail

Short hike on Lake Shore Trail to the old cars. Where did these cars come from? Again, you can read about the history of the area in an article I wrote years ago.

We’ll be staying at Fontana Village and not roughing it.

But you have to make reservations soon. They’ve even thought about all the single people who might want to find a roommate and created a form.

Sign up and see you on the trail.

Elkmont Houses to be demolished

Well, it had to happen at some point.

The Elkmont houses in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are to be demolished. To be specific, the park now has money to make progress on the plans solidified in 2009 to preserve 19 cabins and demolish 55 others.

Peering into the cabins

If you want a little history of how these modern-day houses came to land in the park, you can read my blog or read the full Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which probably runs in the thousands of pages.

A few years ago, the park refurbished the Appalachian Club and the Spence Cabin shown at the top of this post.

They didn’t have the money to move on the rest of the FEIS. It costs money to tear things down as well.

But the bottom line is that the park is going to stabilize 19 cabins eventually. Right now, they’re working on four cabins to be open to the public.

So as usual, I’m suggesting that you get out there. Once the demolition starts, the park will limit access to the area. They’ll close the Little River Trail and the Jakes Creek Trail.

In Elkmont

To get to the Elkmont historic area,

From Sugarlands Visitor Center, take Little River Road for about six miles.

Turn left toward Elkmont Campground which is well-signposted. Follow the road toward the campground. Turn left again at the “Jakes Creek Trail sign” and go up to the parking area. In front of you will be Millionaires Row. Get out, walk and explore.

Take lots of pictures because when they’re gone they’re gone.

What do I do Monday morning?

In the Smokies

We got on a bus, we marched, we posted on Facebook, we talked and talked and preached mostly to the choir.

Please let’s not get fatigued. Let’s not retreat to our personal concerns. Now what do we do?

It’s up to us now because we can’t depend on our administration to care about our needs, dreams, and desires – not that we ever could.

From reproductive rights, public education, freedom of the press to funding for the arts and public lands, things are going to change and not for the better. And we need to control that change.

Here is what one organizer said

Without a clear path from march to power, the protest is destined to be an ineffective feelgood spectacle adorned with pink pussy hats.

I am not interested in running for public office, as this article implies, but I am ready to support those that are.

You are registered to vote, right? And you vote in all elections, right?

Girls in Colonial garb

An organization that asks the same question  has 10 actions in the next 100 days. However, you don’t need logins, passwords, and likes to make a difference. Here are some concrete actions you can take.

What are you passionate about?

*Choose one cause and really support it. Stay on top of the issues and not just on Facebook. Become a member of the organization and understand what’s at stake.

*Get the names and contact information for your senators and representatives. Keep it on hand and contact them regularly.

Here’s my example, just to give you something concrete.

I am passionate about our national parks. So…
I’m a member and supporter of Friends of the Smokies, and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

I volunteer my time. Every cause needs volunteers, regular, dependable volunteers. Most nonprofits just don’t have the money to hire the staff they need. Many times, a volunteer brings a different perspective to the organization.

I write to my representatives from time to time, just so they hear from me about national parks.

I email instead of call. With email or snail mail, I know that my message is being received correctly. Someone from their office always responds. It may be a canned response but it’s a response. The official knows that you’re paying attention.

It may be a small step but necessary. Here are my representatives in Washington. Who are yours?

Senator Richard Burr            
Senator Tom Tillis                  
Congressman Patrick McHenry